#BLOGTOBER at The Finsbury
Meat Loving Vegans, Words & Noises; Saints Patience and SALT
THERE are few things worse than facing the rigours…
and ‘realities’ of a Monday workday having squandered and threated-away the previous evening. It (Monday) is an omnipresent, unforgiving crypt keeper that seems to show little mercy to a single soul – and, as such, is dreaded and derided by all. It is lucky; therefore, #BLOGTOBER exists and is there to ensure Sunday night goes off with a bang. I was invited to curate the penultimate night of #BLOGTOBER: a series of October nights curated by the finest tastemakers of the media/blog world. I say it rather modestly but it is quite daunting sharing promotional space with the likes of The Line of Best Fit and the finest writers in modern British music. Disposing of any modesty (false or otherwise) it was wonderful being at The Finsbury for Lost in the Manor. You can still make your way down to the final date tonight – Temple Turtle curates – and unwind after the start of another (gruelling) week. Walking into The Finsbury – the first time I had visited – was a welcome contradiction to the sites, smells and sounds of the neighbouring streets – a rhapsody of acrid smoke, continental cuisines and a myriad of accents and conversations. Walking the streets (near the bar) is quite an experience: N4 is one of the most genuine and heartwarming parts of the capital; one of the few areas that has not been over-gentrified; some honesty and reality remains.
The bar itself was a welcoming and warm place – light around the windows and a cosy, homely feel – and one feels instantly soothed and comfortable there. Meeting Chris Sharpe – Lost in the Manor; organiser of #BLOGTOBER – and there was an instant fear – Meat Loving Vegans’ keyboard player was A.W.O.L. Despite the missing keys man; the band were first up and played to a small, if fervent crowd. The heaviest and most direct act of the night: they ran through a collection of songs and mixed it with some jamming and improvisation. Taking material from their debut album, Lost in Fiction, it was an explosive and tight set that was done and dusted in about twenty minutes – a perfect kick-start and way to get the energy levels up. Despite it being a Sunday night there were more people there than expected – quite a few turned up and the reception was good. Meat Loving Vegans certainly are a band in tune and connected: throughout their set, they had that kinship and bond that saw all three players really push themselves and bring out an exhilarating turn.
Despite my voice going – the sheer force of the music rendering it inaudible inside the venue – it was just the way to kick off proceedings and get the place rocking. The London band will be bringing their second album out soon but, if rumours are to be believed, might be one of the last gigs they played. If that is the case – and let’s hope it isn’t – they certainly gave it their all and brought new life to their album tracks. Goodbye Granda – a personal favourite of lead/guitarist Dexter was performed with gusto and verve – a more rabbled and pugnacious interpretation than appears on the album. For those dreading the commute and hollow empathy of Monday were given a shot of tequila to the brain – a performance that is still buzzing in the brain. Despite it being a short set, the boys had their fans in and showed what incredible musicians they are. It would be nice – if they do more gigs – to do a few acoustic numbers as they have that range and ability. The lack of keyboard player limited their set possibilities but they adapted well and rose to the challenge.
After the dust had settled – and the smoke machine had billowed out its last blast – there was a brief pause to dash to the bar and get another beer in – affordable prices and a good range even for a London bar; not many continental beers and drafts but plenty of choices; the food was rather fine, too. Words & Noises are one of my favourite discoveries of the past year and their new E.P., The Collector, shows what a brilliant duo they are. Having chatted with Chris and Simon before and after the gig: the guys were saying how this was a rare London gig for them. The duo have performed a selection of gigs this year but geographical distance – Simon is based in Manchester – means they are limited to where they can perform and how much they can do. Simon’s impressive trek from Manchester was made worthwhile with a fantastic set that showed how natural they are in the live environment. Chris is a naturally assured and witty conversationalist – few bands speak between numbers; nice to find – and his voice was in top form throughout the set. Simon’s percussion duties were more stripped-back and tribal than normal (not sitting behind a full kit) but, if anything, was more effective with box-beaten jams and punchy, compressed beats.
Following the volume and beer-scented Punk of Meat Loving Vegans: Words & Noises offered a more melodic and calmed affair. Chris Selman’s voice was record-clear and had the same quality and sound as The Collector. It is rare to find an act that can not only sound as good live as in the studio – the songs are given extra gravitas and atmosphere in a small and intimate setting. Running through a selection of their best-known tracks, they premiered an unheard song – one that was going to feature on the E.P. but never made the cut. Chris explained the song, one that looks at the state of the U.S. and the sorry state of affairs, was a gamble; maybe people would not bond with it. As it stands, it is a song that could easily have featured in The Collector. Let’s hope the guys give it a full workup and consider it for a single – it is a memorable number that fits into their catalogue and sounded great at The Finsbury. The boys went down well with the crowd and I, for one, would definitely come see them perform more. The Finsbury seems like a natural setting for them – despite it being rather hot on stage apparently – but Words & Noises were a much-needed addition and provided some of the most tender and affecting moments of the night.
Saints Patience, like Words & Noises to an extent, have modest about them. Humbleness seemed to be a connection that linked all four acts of the night. Speaking with Mudibu just before their set: he explained how excited the and were but was wondering how they would be received. It was not a fearful revelation but an assessment of a Sunday night gig – how the people would react and if they would get the bodies in. As it turns out, they were one of the biggest surprises on the night. Not because they were better than one hoped (that is true) but because of the reaction they got. Mudibu’s stage presence is heartwarming and entertaining. He has “only two moves” as guitarist Spencer joked – not too bad if I may say so! As the music kicked in, his hips shaked and he danced about the stage – making the tiny platform seem like a dancefloor; shifting and shaping; jiving and grooving. A commanding and fine singer: his soulful and powerful tones made sure every number was given huge passion and fortitude.
Break of Dawn is their latest single and one recorded when the band were just a duo (Mudibu and Spencer). The newly-formed quartet put on a stunning display and one that got the crowd dancing and involved. Spencer’s guitar chops were evident and stunning: gaining gasps from the crowd and showing his full historic range. Taut and funky basslines held the music together and drove the entire band forward – making sure the addictive, memorable songs were even more defined and nuanced. It was drummer Amanda Dal that provided some of the biggest talking points of the night. A “lioness” as Mudibu explained to me: her rampant, pummeling stick-work cannot be ignored or overlooked. Consistently multi-limbed, staggering and immense: comparisons were made, by more than a few people, to the likes of Dave Grohl and the titans of Heavy Rock. The band’s energy, affection and talents were fantastic to watch – another band I would love to see more of. Speaking with Spencer and Amanda after the set; they explained how they want to gig more but were planning a strategy and getting new music together. If you can see them live, I urge that as they are a sensational band to see in the flesh. They prepare to release their debut album, Weather the Storm, and that will be a much-needed additon to anyone’s collection.
SALT were the headliners and certainly brought some theatre and visual arrest to the night. If Meat Loving Vegans’ green-haired lead was not striking enough: the London boys’ matching uniform approach brought some self-mocking jokes but gave them a strange synchronicity and identity. Rather than being another anodyne, faceless band: they showed presence and strange allure – sort of like a more high-minded look of A Clockwork Orange (minus the excessive eye make-up). The five-piece did not seem unwieldy or cramped on stage: they managed to transform the modest stage into a veritable arena – their music blasting from the speakers and filling the room. If Saints Patience got the room dancing and entranced in an orgy of Funk and Soul: the SALT boys got it rocking out into the night.
The guys have been grabbing the attention of press and bloggers over the last few months and small wonder. They are able to banter but when it comes to the music, they are serious, in-control and tight as any other band. Memories and threats of a Monday morning seemed distant when listening to the band and they managed to banish the blues and get the crowd engaged and excited. SALT brought a mini bus-full of support with them and it they went down well with the audience. The guys are also looking to gig more (I learned when speaking with lead Frankie following the gig) and will find themselves in demand as we head into 2017. They are a fairly new proposition so are just making themselves heard and trying to carve out as much real estate as they can. In a competitive and busy industry, they have the gravitas and performance chops to get regular gigs and their studio material has found its way onto radio and under the microscope of some of the most respected music writer in the country. How they develop and evolve is going to be interesting to see.
Heading back into the busy North London night, it was a great night that bore witness to four unique, fantastic bands. Each has their own merits and surprisingly – given how diverse they were – effortless shared the bill and made impressions. Sunday nights are always hard to fill and get people involved with but the people turned out and showed their support. It would be wonderful seeing the bands return on a weekday and play together again as there was shared affection and mutual respect among the ranks. The Finsbury provided a perfect space and is one of the most underrated small venues in London. In a city that is seeing so many lauded spots close their doors: bands and new musicians should be aware of fantastic little space. I will be coming back to The Finsbury and keen to curate and promote other acts – a few I have in mind and want to see on that stage. Among them would be the likes of REWS – who seem readymade for The Finsbury – but also the quartet of groups that graced the stage last night. After rolling in at 01:30 today and ‘enjoying’ a few hours’ sleep – I felt compelled to get it all onto page and document the night (apologies for any loquaciousness or typos). Congratulation to Chris Sharpe and the guys at Lost in the Manor for hosting me and allowing some of my favourite acts a chance to shine. The whole #BLOGTOBER event must have been a logistical challenge and provides its fair share of anxieties and nervy moments. Thanks go out to Meat Loving Vegans, Words & Noises; the guys of Saints Patience and SALT for a great evening that made a potentially average night…
INTO something rather special.
FOLLOW THE BANDS
Meat Loving Vegans
Words & Noises